Mercy Falls (Cork O'Connor Series #5)

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Overview

"Back on the beat as sheriff of Tamarack County, Cork O'Connor has already seen his beautiful Northwoods jurisdiction through an eventful summer. Now, as the chill of autumn sweeps through the countryside, he's about to face a season of murder, adultery, and deceit that will take him from seedy backwoods bars and humble reservation shanties to the highest and most corrupt echelons of Chicago society." "Lured to the nearby Ojibwe reservation on what appears to be a routine domestic disturbance call, Cork finds himself the target of a sniper's
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Mercy Falls (Cork O'Connor Series #5)

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Overview

"Back on the beat as sheriff of Tamarack County, Cork O'Connor has already seen his beautiful Northwoods jurisdiction through an eventful summer. Now, as the chill of autumn sweeps through the countryside, he's about to face a season of murder, adultery, and deceit that will take him from seedy backwoods bars and humble reservation shanties to the highest and most corrupt echelons of Chicago society." "Lured to the nearby Ojibwe reservation on what appears to be a routine domestic disturbance call, Cork finds himself the target of a sniper's deadly fire. He has little time to worry about his own precarious situation, however. Soon after the shooting, he's called to investigate a mutilated body found perched above the raging waters of Mercy Falls. The victim is Eddie Jacoby, a Chicago businessman involved in negotiating an unpopular contract between his management firm and the local Indian casino." "Now Cork must deal with a high-profile murder contaminated with the blood of the rich and powerful. Sparks fly when the wealthy Jacoby family insists on hiring a beautiful private investigator named Dina Willner to consult on the case. But once Cork discovers an old and passionate tie between one of the Jacoby sons and his own wife, Jo, he begins to suspect that the events in Aurora have a darker, more personal motive than he could ever have imagined." With his life at stake and the safety of his family in question, Cork must squelch the growing suspicion that another man desperately wants his wife, and at the same time resist the passion heating up between himself and Dina. Murder, greed, sex, and jealousy all play a part in the maze of danger and intrigue Cork is caught in. But somewhere, hidden beneath the turbulent depths of Mercy Falls, lie the answers, and Cork is determined to find them.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
In Aurora, Minn., Cork O'Connor is the local sheriff, and he is so not being supported. At first, the deal seems nothing more than a ho-hum domestic dispute-Lucy and Eli Tibodeau at it again. But since the call came in from the Iron Lake Reservation, Cork, part Ojibwe himself, decides to ride along with his deputy because things do go better Ojibwe to Ojibwe. Not this time, though. Bullets fly, Deputy Marsha Dross goes down, critically wounded, Cork escaping narrowly-an ambush, the 911 call an obvious fake, the Tibodeaus miles from home at the time. Investigation soon persuades the cops that, in the dark, the tall, broad-shouldered Marsha was mistaken for Cork, and now the question becomes: Who could possibly hate so valiant and virtuous a sheriff enough to resort to murder? Before Cork can come to grips with that, however, there's a second bloody incident. Loathsome Eddie Jacoby is found dead, and suddenly, it's a whole new ballgame. Arrogant, vulgar, a womanizer and a bully, Eddie was nevertheless the favorite son of his rich and powerful dad. From Chicago, the Jacobys descend en masse, bringing with them as a sort of hired gun ex-FBI hotshot Dina Winter. Grief-stricken but enraged, Lou Jacoby wants his son's killer nailed, and he doesn't trust any "hayseed with a badge" to get the job done, which is why Dina's on hand. But why, exactly, is Ben Jacoby, Eddie's not very adoring half brother, on hand? Cork doesn't like the way Ben keeps eyeing Jo, Cork's wife. Discovering that Ben and Jo knew each other-and knew each other well-when both were in law school, he likes it even less. And that's just for starters. It's not plotting that keeps Krueger (Blood Hollow, 2004, etc.) a rank below thebest suspensers, it's the relentless probity of his Dudley Do-Right hero.
From the Publisher
"Cork O'Connor...is one of those hometown heroes you rarely see...someone so decent and true, he might restore his town's battered faith in the old values." — The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743445894
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 6/27/2006
  • Series: Cork O'Connor Series , #5
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 4.19 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

William Kent Krueger

William Kent Krueger is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen mysteries in the Cork O’Connor series, including Trickster’s Point and Tamarack County, as well as the novel Ordinary Grace, which won the 2014 Edgar Award for Best Novel. He lives in the Twin Cities with his family. Visit his website at WilliamKentKrueger.com.

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Read an Excerpt

How It Ends

She woke naked on the bed, in a room she didn't recognize, her mind as clear of memory as the sky outside her window was of clouds. A huge pillow that smelled faintly of lavender cradled her head. She was too warm and drew back the covers so that she lay exposed on the white sheet like a delicacy on a china plate.

She tried to sit up, far too quickly, and the room spun. A minute later, she tried again, this time rising gradually until she could see the whole of the great bedroom. The bed itself was a four-poster with a canopy. The armoire a few feet distant was the color of maple syrup and carved with ornate scrolling. On the walls, in elegant, gilt-edged frames, hung oil paintings of Mediterranean scenes, mostly with boats and angry, blue-black seas. The magnificent red of the Persian rug matched the thick drapes drawn back to let in the morning light. None of this was familiar to her. But there was one detail that struck a welcome chord: an explosion of daisies in a yellow vase on the vanity. Daisies, she remembered, had always been her favorite flowers.

A clean, white terry cloth robe had been neatly laid out at the foot of the bed, but she ignored it. She walked to the daisies and touched one of the blossoms. Something about the fragility of the petals touched her in return and made her sad in a way that felt like grieving.

For whom? she wondered, trying to nudge aside the veil that, at the moment, hung between her perception and all her understanding. Then a thought occurred to her. The birds. Maybe that was it. She was grieving for all the dead birds.

Her eyes lifted to the vanity mirror. In the reflection there, she saw the bruises on her body. One on her left breast above her nipple, another on the inside of her right thigh, oval-shaped, both of them, looking very much like the blue ghosts of tooth marks.

As she reached down and gingerly touched the tender skin, she heard firecrackers go off outside her window, two of them. Only two? she thought. What kind of celebration was that?

She put on the robe, went to the door, and opened it. Stepping out, she found herself in a long hallway with closed doors on either side, her only companions several tall standing plants that were spaced between the rooms like mute guardians. At each end of the hall, leaded windows with beveled glass let in enough daylight to give the emptiness a sense of benign well-being that she somehow knew was false. She crept down the hallway, listening for the slightest sound, feeling the deep nap of the carpet crush under the soles of her bare feet. At last she reached a staircase that wound to the lower level. She followed the lazy spiral unsteadily, her hand holding to the railing for balance, leaving moist fingerprints on the polished wood that vanished a moment after her passing.

She stood at the bottom of the stairway, uncertain which way to turn. To her right, a large room with a baby grand piano at its center, a brick fireplace, a sofa and loveseat of chocolate brown leather. To her left, a dining room with a huge crystal chandelier and a table large enough for a banquet. Sunlight from a long window cleaved the table, and in the bright gleam sat another vase full of daisies. Drawn by the smell of freshly brewed coffee, she moved through the dining room to the opened door of the kitchen beyond.

A carafe of orange juice sat on the counter near the sink, and next to it a glass, poured and waiting. The smell of the coffee came from a French-press coffeemaker that sat on a large butcher-block island. An empty cup and saucer had been placed on the block, as if she were expected. A book lay there, too, opened to a page that began, I couldn't sleep all night; a fog-horn was groaning incessantly in the Sound, and I tossed half-sick between grotesque reality and savage, frightening dreams.

The sliding glass door that overlooked the veranda was drawn back, letting in the morning air, and she walked across the cool black and white kitchen tiles to the doorway. From there, she could see the back of the estate with its pool set into the lawn like a piece of cut turquoise. Beyond was the blue-gray sweep of a great body of water that collided at the horizon with a cornflower sky. Beside the pool stood a man in a yellow windbreaker with the hood pulled up. Although she couldn't see his face, there was something familiar in his stance. She stepped outside, not bothering to slide the door closed behind her.

It was a chilly morning. The cold marble of the veranda made her feet ache, but she paid no attention, because something else had caught her eye. A crimson billow staining the blue water. She descended the steps and followed a limestone walk to the apron of the pool.

The body lay on the bottom, except for the arms, which floated free, lifted slightly as if in supplication. The swimming trunks were white, the skin tanned. She couldn't see the wounds, only the blood that leaked from somewhere underneath, gradually tinting the turquoise water a deep rose.

The standing man turned his head slowly, as if it were difficult, painful even, for him to look away from death. The sun was at his back, his face shadowed, a gun in his hand.

She recognized him, and the thought of what he'd just done pulled her heart out of her chest.

"Oh, Cork, no," she whispered.

When he heard his name, his hard, dark eyes grew soft. Corcoran O'Connor stared at his wife, at her clean robe, her bare feet, her hair still mussed from a night she barely remembered.

"Jo," he said, "I came to bring you home."

Copyright © 2005 by William Kent Krueger

1

They hit the skunk just outside of town, and after that, they drove with the windows down. It didn't help much.

"I know what you're thinking," Deputy Marsha Dross said.

"How could you know what I'm thinking?" Cork replied.

"Because it's what I'd be thinking if I were you."

"And what's that?"

"That if I'd let you drive, this wouldn't have happened."

"You're not me," Cork said. "And that's not what I'm thinking."

"What are you thinking?"

"Just wondering if there's enough money in the budget for a new Land Cruiser." He put his head out the window and let the air clear his nose.

The road they were traveling had been traveled before by generations of Ojibwe and Voyageurs. It connected the Blueberry River with Iron Lake and had been an important passage in the days of the fur trade. The French had called it Portage du Myrtille, Blueberry Portage. To the Ojibwe, whom the white men often called Chippewa but who preferred the name Anishinaabe, which meant Original People, it was known as Maanadamon — Bad Trail — because it was a long portage with stretches of marsh and deep mud. And skunks. To the engineers who, in the mid twentieth century, had widened and graded it and laid down asphalt, it was called simply County Road 23. They'd killed the beauty of the names, but they hadn't been able to destroy the stunning grandeur of the land through which it ran, the great Northwoods of Minnesota.

The asphalt ended at the beginning of the Iron Lake Reservation. On the rez, the wide shoulders disappeared and the road became a narrow gravel track following a clear stream that threaded its way through vast stands of pine and rugged hills topped with birch trees and spruce.

As Dross slowed down, the skunk smell grew worse.

"Maybe I should take it through a creek or something," she suggested.

"With skunk, I think you just have to let it wear off. Maybe we'll put this unit out to pasture for a while." He scanned the road in front of them, looking for the turn he knew was coming up.

Autumn had started out cold that year. The sugar maples and sumac had turned early, a deep crimson. At sunrise, the eastern sky was often the color of an open wound and sometimes on crisp mornings the frost that lay over everything reflected the sky, and the whole land appeared to bleed. Warm weather returned in the first week of October, and for the past few days it had felt almost like June again.

"I love Indian summer." Marsha Dross smiled, as if hoping for a pleasant change of subject.

She was a tall woman, nearly six feet, and slender. Her hair was coarse and brown and she kept it short. She had a broad face, large nose. In her uniform and without makeup — something she never wore on the job — she was sometimes mistaken for a man. Off duty, she knew what to do with mascara and eyeliner and lip gloss. She preferred tight dresses with high hemlines, gold jewelry, and line dancing.

"Don't you love Indian summer, Cork?"

"Know where the term Indian summer comes from?" he asked.

"No."

"A white man's phrase. They didn't trust Indians, so when the warm days returned in late fall and it felt like summer but everyone knew it was a lie, they gave it a name they deemed appropriate."

"I didn't know."

"Yes."

"Yes, what?"

"I do love Indian summer." He pointed to the right. "Turn here."

"I know."

Dross pulled onto a side road even smaller and rougher than the one they'd just followed, and they slipped into the blue shadow of a high ridge where a cool darkness had settled among the pine trees. The red-orange rays of the setting sun fell across the birches that crowned the hilltops, and the white trunks seemed consumed by a raging fire.

"I wish you had let me take the call alone," Dross said.

"As soon as you hit that skunk, so did I." He smiled briefly. "You know my policy."

"I responded to a lot of calls on the rez when Wally was sheriff, and Soderberg."

"I'm sheriff now. Domestic disturbances can turn ugly, even between people as harmless as Eli and Lucy."

"Then send another deputy with me. You don't always have to go on the rez calls."

"When you're sheriff, you can do things your way."

Life, Cork knew, was odder than a paisley duck. Three months before he'd been a private citizen, proud proprietor of Sam's Place, a small burger joint on a lovely spot along the shore of Iron Lake. Flipping burgers was a vocation many people probably considered only slightly less humble than, say, rounding up shopping carts in a Wal-Mart parking lot, but Cork had grown fond of his independence. When a scandal forced the duly elected sheriff, a man named Arne Soderberg, from office, the Board of County Commissioners had offered Cork the job. He had the experience; he had the trust of the people of Tamarack County; and the commissioners happened to catch him in a weak moment.

Dross slowed the Land Cruiser. "The truth is, you love going out like this."

The truth was, he did.

"There," Cork said.

It was a small, shabby cabin set against the base of the ridge, with a horseshoe of poplar trees around the back and sides. There was an old shed to the right, just large enough for a pickup truck, but Cork knew it was so full of junk there was no way a pickup could fit. A metal washtub sat in the yard, full of potting soil and the browning stalks of mums that had frozen days before. A big propane tank lay like a fat, white hyphen between the cabin and the shed. Behind the shed stood an old outhouse.

Dross parked off the road in the dirt of what passed for a drive. "Looks deserted," she said.

The curtains were open and behind each window was deep black.

"Eli's pickup's gone," she noted. "Maybe they patched things up and went off to celebrate."

The call had come from Lucy Tibodeau who lived with her husband Eli in the little cabin. These two had a long history of domestic disputes that, more often than not, arose from the fact that Eli liked to drink and Lucy liked to bully. When Eli drank, he tended to forget that he weighed 140 pounds compared to Lucy's 200-plus. In their altercations, it was generally Eli who took it on the chin. They always made up and never actually brought a formal complaint against one another. Patsy, the dispatcher, had taken the call and reported that Lucy was threatening to beat the crap out of Eli if someone didn't get out there to stop her. Which was a little odd. Generally, it was Eli who called asking for protection.

Cork looked at the cabin a moment, and listened to the stillness in the hollow.

"Where are the dogs?" he said.

"Dogs?" Dross replied. Then she understood. "Yeah."

Everybody on the rez had dogs. Eli and Lucy had two. They were an early-warning system of sorts, barking up a storm when visitors came. At the moment, however, everything around the Tibodeau cabin was deathly still.

"Maybe they took the dogs with them."

"Maybe," Cork said. "I'm going to see if Patsy's heard anything more."

Dross put on her cap and opened her door. She stepped out, slid her baton into her belt.

Cork reached for the radio mike. "Unit Three to Dispatch. Over."

"This is Dispatch. Go ahead, Cork."

"Patsy, we're at the Tibodeau place. Looks like nobody's home. Have you had any additional word from Lucy?"

"That's a negative, Cork. Nothing since her initial call."

"And you're sure it came from her?"

"She ID'd herself as Lucy Tibodeau. Things have been quiet out there lately, so I figured we were due for a call."

Marsha Dross circled around the front of the vehicle and took a few steps toward the cabin. In the shadow cast by the ridge, everything had taken on a somber look. She stopped, glanced at the ground near her feet, bent down, and put a finger in the dirt.

"There's blood here," she called out to Cork. "A lot of it."

She stood up, turned to the cabin again, her hand moving toward her holster. Then she stumbled, as if she'd been shoved from behind, and collapsed facedown. In the same instant, Cork heard the report from a rifle.

"Shots fired!" he screamed into the microphone. "Officer down!"

The windshield popped and a small hole surrounded by a spiderweb of cracks appeared like magic in front of Cork. The bullet chunked into the padding on the door an inch from his arm. Cork scrambled from the Land Cruiser and crouched low against the vehicle.

Dross wasn't moving. He could see a dark red patch that looked like a maple leaf spread over the khaki blouse of her uniform.

The reports had come from the other side of the road, from the hill to the east. Where Cork hunkered, the Land Cruiser acted as a shield and protected him, but Dross was still vulnerable. He sprinted to her, hooked his hands under her arms, and dug his heels into the dirt, preparing to drag her to safety. As he rocked his weight back, something stung his left ear. A fraction of a second later another report came from the hill. Cork kept moving, his hands never losing their grip as he hauled his fallen deputy to the cover of the Land Cruiser.

A shot slammed through the hood, clanged off the engine block, and thudded into the dirt next to the left front tire.

Cork drew his revolver and tried to think. The shots had hit an instant before he'd heard the sound of them being fired, so the shooter was at some distance. But was there only one? Or were others moving in, positioning themselves for the kill?

He could hear the traffic on the radio, Patsy communicating with the other units, the units responding. He tried to remember how many cruisers were out, where they were patrolling, and how long it would take them to reach that cabin in the middle of nowhere, but he couldn't quite put it all together.

Dross lay on her back staring up with dazed eyes. The front of her blouse was soaked nearly black. Cork undid the buttons and looked at the exit wound in her abdomen. A lot of blood had leaked out, but the wound wasn't as large as he'd feared. It was a single neat hole, which probably meant that the bullet had maintained its shape, hadn't mushroomed as it passed through her body. A round with a full metal jacket, Cork guessed. Jacketed rounds were generally used in order to penetrate body armor, which Dross wasn't wearing.

Cork had choices to make and he had to make them quickly. If he tended to Dross's wounds, he ignored the threat of an advance from the shooter — or shooters — and risked both their lives. But if he spent time securing their position, the delay could mean his deputy's life.

He weighed the possibility of more than one assailant. The shots had come one at a time, from a distance. When he considered how Dross had fallen, the trajectory of the bullet that had pierced the windshield, and where the final round had hit the engine, he calculated they'd all come from approximately the same direction: from somewhere high on the hill across the road. The shooter was above them and a little forward of their position, with a good view of the driver's side but blind to where Cork crouched. If there'd been more than one assailant involved, a crossfire would have made the most sense, but so far that hadn't happened.

So many elements to consider. So little time. So much at stake.

He chose.

He holstered his revolver and leaned toward the deputy. "Marsha, can you hear me?"

Her eyes drifted to his face, but she didn't answer.

"Hang on, kiddo, I'll be right back."

In the back of the Land Cruiser was a medical kit that contained, among other things, rolls of gauze, sterile pads, and adhesive tape. Cork crept toward the rear of the vehicle. If he was right about the shooter's location, he should be able to grab the medical kit without exposing himself significantly to gunfire. If he was right. It was a big gamble. Dross gave a low moan. The blood had spread across the whole of her uniform, seeped below the belt line of her trousers. Still she looked at him and shook her head, trying to warn him against anything rash. Cork drew a breath and moved.

He reached around the back end of the Land Cruiser, grasped the handle, and swung the rear door open. He stood exposed for only a moment as he snatched the medical kit and the blanket, then he spun away and fell to the ground just as another round punched a hole in the vehicle and drilled through the spare tire, which deflated with a prolonged hiss. He rolled into the cover of the Land Cruiser.

While he put a compress over Dross's wounds, the radio crackled again.

"Dispatch to Unit Three. Over."

Cork glanced up from the bloody work of his hands. At the moment, there was no way to reach the mike. He tore another strip of tape with his teeth.

"Unit Three, do you copy?"

He finished tending to both wounds, then turned Marsha gently and tucked the blanket underneath her along the length of her body. He crawled to the other side, pulled the blanket under her, and wrapped her in it tightly like a cocoon.

"Unit Three, backup is on the way. ETA is twenty minutes. Are you still taking fire?"

Despite the blanket, Dross was shivering. Cork knew that shock could be as deadly as the bullet itself. In addition to keeping her warm, he had to elevate her feet. He opened the front passenger door and wormed his arm along the floor until his hand touched a fat thermos full of coffee he'd brought along. He hauled the thermos out and put it under the deputy's ankles. It elevated her feet only a few inches, but he hoped that would be enough.

Then he turned his attention to the son of a bitch on the hill.

He drew again his .38, a Smith & Wesson Police Special that had been his father's. It was chrome-plated with a six-inch barrel and a walnut grip. The familiar heft of it, and even the history of the weapon itself, gave him a measure of confidence. He crawled under the Land Cruiser, grateful for the high clearance of the undercarriage, inching his way to the front tire on the driver's side. From the shadow there, he peered up at the wooded hill across the road. The crown still caught the last direct rays of the sun and the birch trees dripped with a color like melting brass. After a moment, he saw a flash of reflected sunlight that could have come off the high polish of a rifle stock plate or perhaps the glass of a scope. If it was indeed from the shooter, Cork's target was 250, maybe 300 yards away, uphill. He thought about the twelve-gauge Remington cradled on the rack inside the Land Cruiser. Should he make an attempt, risk getting himself killed in the process? No, at that distance, the shotgun would be useless, and if he were hit trying for it, there'd be nothing to prevent the goddamn bastard from coming down the hill and finishing the job he'd begun. Better to stay put and wait for backup.

But his backup, too, would come under fire. Cork knew he had to advise them of the situation. And that meant exposing himself one more time to the sniper.

He took aim at the place where he'd seen the flash of sunlight, which was far beyond the effective range of his .38, but he squeezed off a couple of rounds anyway to encourage the sniper to reconsider, should hebe thinking about coming down.

He shoved himself backward over the cold earth and came up on all fours beside the front passenger door. He gripped the handle and tried to take a breath, but he was so tense that he could only manage a quick, shallow gasp. He willed himself to move and flung the door open. Lunging toward the radio unit attached to the dash, he wrapped his fingers around the mike dangling on the accordion cord and fell back just as a sniper round slammed through the passenger seat back.

"Unit Three to Unit One. Over."

"Unit One. Go ahead, Sheriff."

"We're still taking fire, Duane. A single shooter, I think, up on a hill due east of our position, directly in front of the cabin. Which way you coming from?"

"South," Deputy Duane Pender said.

"Approach with extreme caution."

"Ten-four, Cork."

"Unit Two to Unit Three. Over."

"I read you, Cy."

"I'm coming in from the north. I'll be a couple of minutes behind Pender."

"Ten-four. Listen, I want you guys coming with your sirens blasting. Maybe we can scare this guy."

"We might lose him, Sheriff," Pender said.

"Right now our job is to get an ambulance in here for Marsha."

"Dispatch to Unit Three."

"Go ahead, Patsy."

"Ambulance estimates another twelve to fifteen minutes, Sheriff. They want to know Marsha's situation."

"Single bullet, entry and exit wounds. I've got compresses on both. I've put a blanket around her and elevated her feet. She's still losing blood."

"Ten-four. Also, State Patrol's responding. They've got two cruisers dispatched to assist."

"I copy that. Out."

Cork crawled toward Dross. Her face was pale, bloodless.

"A few more minutes, Marsha. Help's on the way."

She seemed focused on the sky above them both. She whispered something.

"What?" Cork leaned close.

"Star light, star bright..."

Cork lifted his eyes. The sun had finally set and the eastern sky was turning inky. He saw the evening star, a glowing ember caught against the rising wall of night.

From a distance came the thin, welcome howl of a siren.

Cork looked down at his deputy and remembered what she'd said: that he loved this work. At the moment, she couldn't have been more wrong. Her eyes had closed. He felt at her neck and found the pulse so faint he could barely detect it.

Then her eyes opened slowly. Her lips moved. Cork bent to her again.

"Next time," she whispered, "you drive." Copyright © 2005 by William Kent Krueger

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Introduction

Reading Group Guide

Mercy Falls

By William Kent Krueger

About the Book

Lured to the nearby Ojibwe reservation on what appears to be a routine domestic disturbance call, Tamarack County Sheriff Cork O'Connor finds himself the target of a sniper's deadly fire. Barely escaping with his life, he's soon called to investigate a seemingly unrelated incident: the mutilated body of Eddie Jacoby, a wealthy Chicago businessman who had been negotiating an unpopular casino contract, found perched above the raging waters of Mercy Falls. But once Cork discovers an old and passionate tie between one of the Jacoby sons and his own wife, Jo, he begins to suspect that the events in Aurora have a darker, more personal motive than he could ever have imagined.

Discussion Questions:

1. The prologue opens with Cork's wife, disoriented and woozy, coming upon her husband standing over a recently killed dead body. At this moment, what do you suspect has happened? How much of what you suspected was true in the end?

2. Cork is of both Irish and Native American heritage. What are some of the stereotypical prejudices against those cultures? How does Cork's heritage get used against him? How does it help him? Compare the prejudices Cork faces to other ethnicities' prejudices — how do they differ and how are they the same?

3. When the body of Eddie Jacoby is discovered, the police find that it has been brutally mutilated — after he was killed. Was the description of the body difficult to read? What does the mutilation reveal about the killer? How do we know that Eddie has been in trouble before?

4. Cork asks, "Fourteen stab wounds, castration, anddrugs. Cigarette butts with lipstick. Could it be we're dealing with a woman?" (p. 74) What do we know about the killer at this point? Did you believe the killer to be a man or a woman at this point in the story?

5. Discuss Cork's reaction when he learns Ben Jacoby is an old flame of his wife Jo's. Is Cork suspicious? Why doesn't Jo ask Eddie if he is related to Ben, a significant man from her past, who had thoroughly broken her heart?

6. Ben presents his reappearance in Jo's life as fate. How much of a coincidence is it really? What are Ben's motives in re-establishing contact with Jo? Is Jo tempted to leave Cork?

7. Dina Willner, an attractive woman with a vast array of deductive and Navy Seal-like skills, joins the investigation. Though Cork remains distrustful of Dina, he is also drawn to her. How do Cork's feelings for Dina affect his actions during the investigation? What do you think Dina and Cork's relationship will be in the future?

8. Though she has little memory of it, Jo is raped. How do Cork and Jo react — individually and as a couple? We know that Cork and Jo have had marital problems in the past. Do you believe this event will tear them apart? What can couples do to overcome traumatic events together?

9. Though we learn who committed the murders, the novel ends with Cork going "on the lam" to avoid endangering his family. Was Cork's departure the best ending? Why or why not? Does this ending make you look forward to the next Cork O'Connor novel or does it frustrate you? What do you think will happen next?

10. How do Mercy Falls, and other works by William Kent Krueger, reflect "Minnesota culture?" Do you see similarities to the way Minnesota is portrayed in the film Fargo? What are some characteristics that distinguish Minnesotans? How is the landscape unique? How does the landscape impact Mercy Falls? Compare the landscape of northern Minnesota with Evanston, Illinois, where Rose, Jo's sister, lives. Why did the author include these differences?

11. "It can be tough, being in love with a cop," says Frank, Marsha's father. How are relationships (i.e., Cork and Jo, Marsha and Charlie, Ed and his wife) in Mercy Falls affected by this stress? Discuss the keys to success in these relationships.

12. The police officers in Mercy Falls are second-generation cops and completely committed to their profession. Discuss whether or not this reflects real-life trends.

13. Casinos have been blamed for the deterioration of Native American culture, traffic congestion, drugs and mafia infiltrations, political infighting, and for having a negative impact on local economies. However, casinos have also created hundreds of new jobs that pay decent wages and have helped improve community infrastructure, housing, education, and healthcare on reservations. Keeping these issues in mind, are Native American casinos a good or bad? Why are Native Americans allowed to open casinos?

Book Club Tips:

• Mercy Falls references numerous Native American customs. Deepen your discussion of the book by studying some of the myths and rituals of the Northwoods tribes.

• Research nearby Native American associations and invite a local historian to speak or join your book discussion for that evening.

• Serve traditional Native American food. Or prepare "campfire" food to simulate Cork and his companions' experience when they pursue Stone.

• Screen the movie Fargo before your meeting and compare what you notice in the film with what occurs in the book.

William Kent Krueger is the award-winning author of nine Cork O'Connor novels, including Thunder Bay and Red Knife. All are available from Atria Books. He lives in the Twin Cities with his family. Visit his website at www.williamkentkrueger.com.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

Mercy Falls

By William Kent Krueger

About the Book

Lured to the nearby Ojibwe reservation on what appears to be a routine domestic disturbance call, Tamarack County Sheriff Cork O'Connor finds himself the target of a sniper's deadly fire. Barely escaping with his life, he's soon called to investigate a seemingly unrelated incident: the mutilated body of Eddie Jacoby, a wealthy Chicago businessman who had been negotiating an unpopular casino contract, found perched above the raging waters of Mercy Falls. But once Cork discovers an old and passionate tie between one of the Jacoby sons and his own wife, Jo, he begins to suspect that the events in Aurora have a darker, more personal motive than he could ever have imagined.

Discussion Questions:

1. The prologue opens with Cork's wife, disoriented and woozy, coming upon her husband standing over a recently killed dead body. At this moment, what do you suspect has happened? How much of what you suspected was true in the end?

2. Cork is of both Irish and Native American heritage. What are some of the stereotypical prejudices against those cultures? How does Cork's heritage get used against him? How does it help him? Compare the prejudices Cork faces to other ethnicities' prejudices — how do they differ and how are they the same?

3. When the body of Eddie Jacoby is discovered, the police find that it has been brutally mutilated — after he was killed. Was the description of the body difficult to read? What does the mutilation reveal about the killer? How do we know that Eddie has been in trouble before?

4. Cork asks, "Fourteen stab wounds, castration, and drugs. Cigarette butts with lipstick. Could it be we're dealing with a woman?" (p. 74) What do we know about the killer at this point? Did you believe the killer to be a man or a woman at this point in the story?

5. Discuss Cork's reaction when he learns Ben Jacoby is an old flame of his wife Jo's. Is Cork suspicious? Why doesn't Jo ask Eddie if he is related to Ben, a significant man from her past, who had thoroughly broken her heart?

6. Ben presents his reappearance in Jo's life as fate. How much of a coincidence is it really? What are Ben's motives in re-establishing contact with Jo? Is Jo tempted to leave Cork?

7. Dina Willner, an attractive woman with a vast array of deductive and Navy Seal-like skills, joins the investigation. Though Cork remains distrustful of Dina, he is also drawn to her. How do Cork's feelings for Dina affect his actions during the investigation? What do you think Dina and Cork's relationship will be in the future?

8. Though she has little memory of it, Jo is raped. How do Cork and Jo react — individually and as a couple? We know that Cork and Jo have had marital problems in the past. Do you believe this event will tear them apart? What can couples do to overcome traumatic events together?

9. Though we learn who committed the murders, the novel ends with Cork going "on the lam" to avoid endangering his family. Was Cork's departure the best ending? Why or why not? Does this ending make you look forward to the next Cork O'Connor novel or does it frustrate you? What do you think will happen next?

10. How do Mercy Falls, and other works by William Kent Krueger, reflect "Minnesota culture?" Do you see similarities to the way Minnesota is portrayed in the film Fargo? What are some characteristics that distinguish Minnesotans? How is the landscape unique? How does the landscape impact Mercy Falls? Compare the landscape of northern Minnesota with Evanston, Illinois, where Rose, Jo's sister, lives. Why did the author include these differences?

11. "It can be tough, being in love with a cop," says Frank, Marsha's father. How are relationships (i.e., Cork and Jo, Marsha and Charlie, Ed and his wife) in Mercy Falls affected by this stress? Discuss the keys to success in these relationships.

12. The police officers in Mercy Falls are second-generation cops and completely committed to their profession. Discuss whether or not this reflects real-life trends.

13. Casinos have been blamed for the deterioration of Native American culture, traffic congestion, drugs and mafia infiltrations, political infighting, and for having a negative impact on local economies. However, casinos have also created hundreds of new jobs that pay decent wages and have helped improve community infrastructure, housing, education, and healthcare on reservations. Keeping these issues in mind, are Native American casinos a good or bad? Why are Native Americans allowed to open casinos?

Book Club Tips:

• Mercy Falls references numerous Native American customs. Deepen your discussion of the book by studying some of the myths and rituals of the Northwoods tribes.

• Research nearby Native American associations and invite a local historian to speak or join your book discussion for that evening.

• Serve traditional Native American food. Or prepare "campfire" food to simulate Cork and his companions' experience when they pursue Stone.

• Screen the movie Fargo before your meeting and compare what you notice in the film with what occurs in the book.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 59 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(39)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(1)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 59 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 22, 2011

    Great read

    As with all of the Cork O'Connor series books, this one kept me glued to it. Couldn't put it down. You think you have it solved in your mind, then Krueger turns it in another direction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2014

    Connor

    Im here

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2014

    Heather&co

    A small indention under the High Log leads to the discovery of a cave. It's size large enough to fit four cats comfortably with space in between. This is the Leader's Den. A place of living for the leader and his or her's mate and also a place of discussion.
    ~Amberstar

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2014

    Must read.

    I love this author!! I am in process of reading all his novels. I have added him to my favorites: John Sandford, Robert Crais, Michael Connelly.

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  • Posted May 2, 2014

    Very good, I recommend this story

    This is the first book I've read from this author and I was not disappointed. Very authentic. Kind of reminds me of the "Longmire" TV series, if you've ever watched that. I want to go back now and start with the first book. Recommend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2014

    Highly recommend

    Engaging mystery with the enjoyable small town charm.

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  • Posted April 11, 2014

    I was quite happy with the book until the ending. It didn't hav

    I was quite happy with the book until the ending. It didn't have one. I knew this was part of a series, but I did not realize this book would just leave you hanging until you buy the next book. If I had known this was a two or three part serial I would not have purchased it.

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  • Posted December 10, 2013

    Highly Recommended Read!

    William Kent Krueger is one writer that makes you feel like you are right there with Sheriff Cork O'Connor working on the cases. He draws you in with such realistic descriptions, you can almost smell the pine needles and feel the mist on your face as you are walking in the boundary waters. I can't wait to read the next book in this series. You cannot go wrong when you pick up one of Mr. Krueger's books. They are the best!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 18, 2013

    Cork O'Conner has returned as the sheriff of Tamarack County, Mi

    Cork O'Conner has returned as the sheriff of Tamarack County, Minn, but someone has taken a pot shot at him, apparently wanting him dead.  Meanwhile, someone has also killed the representative of a group trying to set up a working arrangement with the Ojibwa Indians, but the killing suggests something more sexually motivated.  The murdered man also turned out to be the brother of Cork's wife old college lover, Ben Jacoby.  Jacoby's father is filthy rich, and wants revenge for the deaths of his only two children.  In comes the beautiful ex FBI agent, Dina Willner, hired by Jacoby to find and eliminate whoever took out his boys.




    As always, Kruger builds up suspense and tension within his stories.  Relations between the whites and Indians is always an issue, and Cork and his wife have difficult times meshing Cork's job with a safe family life.  The addition of an old boyfriend really complicated this story, because this rich ex-lover may have his own ideas about getting back his old college flame.  But somehow as things progress, extra elements just don't add up, and Cork may have more than he can deal with this time.




    This story ends with a definite cliff hanger--almost too much for me with this 5th installment of the Cork O'Conner mysteries. The answers are left to be dealt with in the next book, COPPER RIVER.  Thus, 4 instead of 5 stars for this book.  Then again, maybe this should be a 6 star read, since I find I MUST read his next book immediately!!

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  • Posted August 30, 2013

    Suspense as Usual

    Krueger never fails to keep the reader in suspense in his Cork O'Connor Series. Mercy Falls keeps you guessing about the killer(s), and as usual has a twist at the end! I would recommend this book and any in the series to those who especially enjoy a good mystery.

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  • Posted May 3, 2013

    Good Series

    I'm a total sucker for this genre and this series is no different. I think the characters are well developed and with each new book they age and change appropriately. There are no supermen here just people trying to do their job. Of course the setting is great. Northern Minnesota is beautiful. Start with the first book in the series and read your way through the latest, you won't regret the trip.

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  • Posted February 22, 2013

    Great Read, highly recommended

    Cork O'Connor is an all-American hero. This book just nails that impression. If you like a good story and one that will not let you put the book down - this is the one for you!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 4, 2012

    This book starts out with a bang and just keeps going!

    Krueger's main character, Cork O'Connor is once again the sheriff of the little town of Aurora Minnesota. The people of Aurora are down to earth folks, many of them in the lumber or mining business. Aurora borders a large Indian reservation. Most of Cork's days are filled with domestic arguments, drunken brawls and underage drinkers. A call to a regular domestic disturbance leads Cork and his deputies into a deadly trap, with Cork as the target. As the story unfolds Cork uncovers a bigger evil threatening his town, his wife and his own moral stamina. This is a tightly written book with a dark undertone that leaves Cork and his family into a bitter sweet family crisis. Krueger's endings are never anticipated, but they are always satisfying.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2012

    Incomplete ending

    Not my favorite

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  • Posted August 24, 2012

    This book was not up to the standards of Mr. Krueger's other mys

    This book was not up to the standards of Mr. Krueger's other mysteries.
    In my way of thinking the ending was totally unsatisfactory and the last
    sentence might well have been "to be contnued." I don't mind
    a surprise ending but do not like to be left hanging.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 16, 2012

    Starting near the end proved to be a clever way to begin the fif

    Starting near the end proved to be a clever way to begin the fifth book in the Cork O’Connor series (and my first introduction to the Minnesota sheriff). Surrounded by beautiful prose, the reader becomes engrossed in the story, and the pace doesn’t disappoint either. There’re more than enough sub-plots to keep the reader entertained and guessing about what might happen next.

    Cork isn’t perfect; he has just enough flaws to keep him human, instead of being larger than life. Like Cork, the other characters are fleshed out well, and the story moves at a steady pace toward the ending. William Kent Krueger makes Minnesota sound both beautiful and enchanting, with rich history to fill every page.

    While the ending may not satisfy all readers, it certainly worked for me: I want to pick up book six, as well as go back to the beginning, and read all the books in this two-time Anthony Award-winning series. Despite the author growing his audience over the years, and deservedly reaching the New York Times Bestseller’s List, he deserves an even bigger reach. If you enjoy beautiful descriptions and well-drawn characters, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better read than MERCY FALLS.

    Robert Downs
    Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2012

    Highly recommended!

    If you enjoy a good mystery, you'll love these books. Cork O'Connor is a great character. I've read the first 4 books and am now reading #5. Mercy Falls is exciting from the very beginning and doesn't slow down. Krueger's books really hold your attention, and I'm always in a hurry to get back to reading one. I also enjoy James Patterson's books, but I look forward to reading a new book by Krueger just as much. I think if you read one you'll be hooked.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    this has been a great series of books, started with #1 and just finished #5. Can't wait to get started on #6. Cork is quite a guy. William Krueger writes a thriller every time. He knows how to keep you guessing and it is hard to put down.

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  • Posted February 26, 2012

    Highly recommend

    Love all the Cork O'Connor books, the only problem for me is that they are addicting, I don't want to put them down, which causes my family to bug me for food, laundry, etc!

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  • Posted February 13, 2012

    Excellent as usual!

    The saga of Cork O'Connor continues and without disappointment. What an adventure to read this series. My husband and I read these together and we can't wait to get to the next story.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 59 Customer Reviews

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